Kedusha and Sacrifice

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

Rav Soloveitchik cited the Midrash Tanchuma [to Tazria 17] that the Roman governor Tineius Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva, “If GD dislikes the uncircumcised , then why did He create man in an uncircumcised state”? Rabbi Akiva responded, “Does the earth yield bread?”

In this response, the Rav explained, Rabbi Akiva conveyed the message that just as GD desires man to bring forth bread through his own effort, likewise man can achieve kedusha only through his own endeavors. What Rabbi Akiva was saying is that sanctity in this world can be created only through the initiative, self-sacrifice, pain, effort and exertion. Without toil and suffering, there is no holiness. Holiness and sacrifice, both literally and figuratively, are fundamentally the same concept. If a person does not anticipate and struggle, kedusha cannot come into being.

This principle also underlines the difference between the current halachic status of Har Sinai and Har Hamoria. Even today, we Jews are prohibited from walking on certain parts of Mount Moriah upon which the Beit HaMikdash stood; no power in the world can neutralize the holiness of that place. Yet, there is no prohibition to climb Moun Sinai, upon which the Torah was given. Despite being the site of the greatest divine revelation in human history, none of Mount Sinai’s holiness endured. As soon as the revelation was over the holiness of the mountain vanished as well. However, the history of Har HaMoriah is different. Hundreds of years prior to GD resting His presence there, our forefather, Avraharm Avinu prepared an alter on that mountain and placed his son Yitzchak upon it as a sacrifice. Avraham thus became a partner with GD in the endowment of the holiness that permeates the Temple Mount , or Har HaBayit.

So the difference between the two mountains is, that the people of Israel did nothing to contribute to the holiness of Har Sinai. It is precisely because the holiness of Mount Moriah was established upon the foundation of Avraham’s dedication and self-sacrifice that its sanctity is still and will continue to last forever.

(source: Derashot HaRav, p. 171)

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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